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Alternative Character Interpretation / Harry Potter

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Harry Potter is a series of seven Doorstoppers with Loads and Loads of Characters - but even they don't always tell the whole story. Compounding this fact is that the saga is told nearly completely in limited third-person perspective, making it so we only see and think what Harry sees and thinks. Therefore, it's very easy to re-examine characters' behavior and motivations while thinking Harry - whether out of ignorance or his own biases - is an Unreliable Narrator.

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  • About Harry himself:Is he as talented and adept at magic as everyone seems to think he is? He's credited with defeating Voldemort, but the first time he did it he was an infant and it was through his mother's Heroic Sacrifice, and the second time he mostly took advantage of Voldemort's inability to understand love and otherwise followed Dumbledore's carefully laid plans. Some critics suggest that many of his victories were only based on luck (or Dumbledore's Batman Gambits) as opposed to great skill with magic. Interestingly, Harry himself believes in the fifth book that he only made it so far because he got lucky, only for Ron and Hermione to insist that these events also showed a bravery and resourcefulness that others don't have.
  • Ron Weasley: Is he really a good friend or an attention hungry gold digger? He immediately approaches and befriends Harry after learning he's the boy who lived, sees himself as a quidditch hero head boy in the mirror of Erised, and takes off for really stupid reasons at crucial moments from book four onwards.
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  • Hermione Granger: We know she's a Badass Bookworm, but how smart is she really? Harry considers her the smartest witch at Hogwarts and makes no bones about it (which embarrasses her to no end), but does she really live up to the hype? Part of it might just be that she's very book-smart but isn't as creative or confident as the other Teen Geniuses we see in the books - in essence, she's Boring, but Practical.
  • Ginny Weasley:
    • Did she become a Broken Bird after her traumatic first year? She's shown as more aggressive and bitter in the later books, and perhaps that's because she's trying to prevent that from happening again. Some interpretations paint her as a straight-up Atoner bordering on Death Seeker; the idea is that since There Are No Therapists, she was forced to deal with the trauma herself, and she feels she can only redeem herself by helping defeat Voldemort - and possibly dying in the process. This gives added weight to her response to Harry's It's Not You, It's My Enemies rationale for breaking it off: "What if I don't care?"
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    • What was the nature of Ginny's relationship with Tom Riddle in her first year? Harry doesn't learn much about what Tom's diary did to her; he suspects it brainwashinged her into committing some horrible acts. But some people wonder how much control Ginny really had. Was she tricked into doing it by a nice, friendly-seeming stranger? When she realized what was happening to her, why didn't she tell anyone? Was that mind control too, was she afraid of facing the consequences of her actions (whether they were intentional or not), or was she afraid of people finding out about their friendship? By her account, she had no control over her actions and couldn't reconcile them (even asking Tom if she was going insane), but should Harry believe her, and if that were true, could she plausibly hold up mentally as well as she did? And, since this is fan-fiction: was she in love with him, or was it mutual, or what? (Extremely unlikely, as Voldemort canonically cannot understand love and she's only got eyes for Harry, but again, this is fan-fiction.)
    • One hot-button issue among the fandom is her relationship with Harry. She clearly had a schoolgirl's crush on him in their first year. Did that evolve into deeper feelings? Was she just infatuated by his celebrity status? Did she really understand Harry, or was she Loving a Shadow?
    • We see Ginny transition from Shrinking Violet to Fiery Redhead. Is this a result of her first-year trauma? Did she feel comfortable enough around Harry that she could be herself? Was it just an awkward phase? Was it really Character Development, or was it a hasty retooling of her character?
    • On a somewhat Meta level, some readers have argued Ginny gets too much Character Shilling and feels a bit idealized, and any negative traits she has are often brushed aside. Is this a sign of bad writing on Rowling's part, or is it the natural result of the books being told through Harry’s perspective, justifying the narrative's idealization of her as Harry's growing attraction to her?
  • The Weasley twins: Are they good-natured pranksters who target people who deserve what's coming to them? Or do they just get their kicks from Schadenfreude and get away with it because they target Asshole Victims? Are they aware of the severity of some of their pranks (including shoving a student into a vanishing cabinet, which could have swallowed him up completely)? Does the fact that they seem to treat Harry better than their own brothers suggest anything about their relationship with their family? Do they target Percy in particular because Percy is the most uptight and the biggest asshole (who does eventually break with the family), or because they are jealous of the attention Percy got for his academic and professional achievements?
  • Percy Weasley was always kind of different from the rest of his family, but there are different suggestions as to why:
    • The usual interpretation: he was just too ambitious. When he got a job at the Ministry, he got pretty close to Minister Fudge and became a Professional Butt-Kisser. When he chose Fudge over the Order, he had a falling out with the rest of the family; Harry being with the rest of the family, the narrative paints him as a sort of traitor.
    • Some suggest that he was just different in personality, being smarter but more rules-oriented and more willing to think of the consequences of risky actions (unlike his siblings, some of whom are legendarily impulsive). He feels he can serve the good guys better with a Ministry position than in the Order, something that Harry doesn't particularly respect.
    • The other Weasleys were very prone to making fun of Percy and had little respect for his interests. After the rift, the others seemed to only express anger at him for leaving, but never sadness or regret; from all this, some fans suggest that Percy had every right to leave, given that he was clearly The Unfavorite of everyone but Molly. But this raises its own questions; were they too quick to say they didn't care that he was gone, and that's why they accepted him back so quickly in the end?
    • He may have been so different from his family and desperate to fit in with them that he steered himself into Gryffindor when he would have been better suited to another House. This may have contributed to his clashes with his fellow Gryffindors.
    • Even his letter to Ron in Order of the Phoenix can be seen in a less negative light. At first glance, it looks like he's a total asshole for asking his brother to dump his best friend and confide in Umbridge. But it can also be Percy's desperate attempt not just to connect with at least one of his siblings, but to protect said sibling from a guy who's got a target on his back and has a poor reputation in the Wizarding world. While it still reflects poorly on Percy not to believe Harry's account of Voldemort's return, he doesn't have much reason to believe Umbridge is as evil as she turned out to be.
    • One theory suggests that he was a mole within the Ministry working for the Order, likening him to the hero of The Scarlet Pimpernel (even sharing his first name). The idea was that he would be so ingrained in the Ministry and loyal to Fudge that no one would question him or believe that he was leaking anything to the Order. If this is true, he did a very good job keeping it a secret from Harry, though.
    • After Dumbledore and Harry are proven right about Voldemort's return and Fudge is unceremoniously fired for not believing them, Percy nevertheless continued to separate himself from his family. Was this because he felt guilty for turning against them when they turned out to be right? Was he too proud to apologize (before he did so in the last book)? Or was he convinced that they wouldn't forgive him even if he asked for it?
  • Arthur and Molly Weasley:
    • Are they really the Good Parents everyone makes them out to be? One theory suggests that they're selfish, wanting to make life as hard for their children as it was for them, or at least irresponsibly having more children than they could afford to raise. Molly's behaviour on this front is particularly concerning, given that the narrative establishes that she wanted a daughter so badly that they kept having children until they got one, making the family bigger than it needed to be (and also leaving Ron as The Unfavorite). These theorists also point to Arthur keeping a menial job at the Ministry because he liked it so much, even though he could have been paid more elsewhere (although in Goblet of Fire it's suggested that he's being kept down there for liking Muggles too much).
    • Some fans discovered a minor point of contention: in Chamber of Secrets, Arthur's son learns of the location of a stash of forbidden items in a respected citizen's house. Come Prisoner of Azkaban, there's no sign of a search or arrest, but Arthur suddenly finds himself seven hundred Galleons richer and claims he won the lottery. Did he really, or is it just a case of every man having his price?
  • Luna Lovegood is a Cloudcuckoolander and an Unpopular Popular Character, but fans are divided as to where her strange beliefs and demeanor come from. Is she a normal girl who's just a bit different? Is she a Dumb Blonde? Or is she mentally ill? And if so, what does she have - autism, ADD, schizophrenia, manic depression, some combination thereof? There are a few ways to think about this:
    • We know that she lost her mother when she was young, which would likely leave some emotional scars, and that her father is about as eccentric as she is. But one interpretation is that she's faking her oddness to lower people's guard, and those theorists point to her remarkably mature and level-headed manner as she discusses her losses with Harry.
    • She may just be magically Adorkable, in the sense that her interests are just pretty narrow in the magical world, and Harry doesn't understand this as a hobby of sorts. She's particularly into magical zoology and is shown in supplemental material to have met and married a relative of famed magical creatures expert Newt Scamander (whom we see in other sources). Harry's perspective may be warped because of her father's ownership of a tabloid that peddles in conspiracy theories, which is why he dismisses many of the creatures Luna mentions as not being real (Harry/Luna shippers find this particularly cruel treatment).
    • Her behaviour may be a defense mechanism, especially considering the fact that her dad runs a conspiracy paper. She could be aware that others are inclined not to believe her — which can be a problem, given that she knows she can see magical creatures like thestrels that even most other wizards can't (and that only because she had seen someone die — even Harry doesn't get that experience until Goblet of Fire). Every now and then she admits what's really going on (for instance, normally blaming her missing possessions on "Nargles" but admitting to Harry that she knows it's other students taking her stuff).
  • Marietta Edgecombe is a minor character who made a big impact by turning over Dumbledore's Army to Umbridge. She was found out because Hermione secretly cast a spell that would give away any snitches - by effectively disfiguring their face. Fans are on two sides as to how sympathetic Marietta is. On the one hand, she was scared of Umbridge (and her mother worked for her, which added to the pressure), and Hermione's secret spell seemed rather cruel and disproportionate. On the other hand, she effectively ended the only self-defence course available anywhere on campus, which Harry argues put practically everyone in danger (especially given that the students risked expulsion, which includes a prohibition from owning a wand or using magic).
  • Cho Chang herself gets some for defending Marietta Edgecombe for betraying Dumbledore's Army, and Harry (understandably) breaks up with her for it. One alternative interpretation is that since the guy she actually dated got killed by a resurrected Voldemort (which no one wants to admit happened, so she can't mourn him properly), she was much more willing to stick with her best friend than with Harry. As Harry points out, though, going to Umbridge endangered the entire Army, Cho included.
  • Albus Dumbledore:
    • In general, Harry practically idolizes him and sees him as an important mentor. But other characters don't like him as much because of his Chessmaster qualities. Some readers spun this further into him being a Knight Templar and Magnificent Bastard. In fan-fiction - especially the Darker and Edgier variety - he can be entirely unrepentant of what he does to ensure the safety of wizardry, even being nice to Harry only because he needs him to sacrifice himself. In canon, at least, he was willing to admit mistakes when Harry confronted him, and it's strongly implied that he's got more regrets that he never told Harry. Some even portray him as really being a delusional madman who endangers the lives of children on a daily basis.
    • The Film of the Book complicates matters further, because two different actors played him and had their own interpretations of him. Richard Harris plays him as a straight-up Obi-Wan-style good guy. Michael Gambon played him as somewhere between an angry Atoner and a Genius Ditz. Screenwriter Steve Kloves claims that he tried to write Dumbledore the same throughout the films, no matter who was playing him. Here's his take on the character (from the second film's commentary):
      I've always felt that Dumbledore bears such a tremendous dark burden, and he knows secrets, and I think in many ways he bears the weight of the future of the wizard world, which is being challenged, and the only way that he can keep that at bay is to be whimsical and humorous.
    • Dumbledore is gay which was heavily implied in the last book but only ever confirmed via Word of Gay which raises several questions. This paints his relationship with his Evil Former Friend Grindelwald in a different light now that we know the Homoerotic Subtext behind it. Theories abound, including: Grindelwald was straight but unaware of Dumbledore's feelings; he was straight and aware, but he didn't know how to respond; he was gay but not in love with Dumbledore; he was in love with him but tragically opposed to his "better half"'s sense of morality; or he didn't care about him at all, but manipulated his feelings for his own ends. There's also the question about how much anyone knew or suspected generally speaking and how much Harry knew or would have cared more specifically given how much he idolized him. His friend Elphias makes a pretty overt joke about it at Bill's wedding and Ron's great-great aunt says there were always "strange rumors" about him in the same conversation. Rita Skeeter also dances pretty close to outright calling him a pedophile for taking an interest in Harry. All of this might have gone over Harry's head but he also goes out of his way to tell Dumbledore in their King's Cross conversation that Grindelwald died refusing to let Voldemort desecrate his tomb to comfort him, suggesting that Harry may have actually known (or at least suspected) and didn't care. The Fantastic Beasts movies add even more ambiguity to the relationship. Dumbledore tells one of the ministry guys they were "closer than brothers" and there is some pretty obvious Homo Erotic Subtext (like them holding hands while making a blood pact) but once again if it was truly reciprocated hasn't been made clear (yet). The fact that they may or may not have been a couple doesn’t actually seem to be a secret per se at that point of time. A high ranking official in the Ministry straight up asks if he’s delaying fighting him out of lingering affection. Grindelwald comes off as jealous when he talks to Newt about him on two different occasions but it could out of romantic jealousy or just from the fact that his one magical equal regularly talks to and likes someone (in Grindelwald’s eyes) as weird and inferior as Newt while they haven't spoken in almost thirty years. There's also reason to believe that Newt knows or suspects the truth. Word of God from JK Rowling herself is ambiguous:
      I think [Grindlewald] was a user and a narcissist, and I think someone like that would use it, would use the infatuation. I don't think that he would reciprocate in that way, although he would be as dazzled by Dumbledore as Dumbledore was by him, because he would see in Dumbledore, "My God, I never knew there was someone as brilliant as me, as talented as me, as powerful as me. Together, we are unstoppable!" Maybe he would take anything from Dumbledore to have him on his side.
    • Rita Skeeter was known for scathing and notoriously false reporting, but she may have inadvertently hit upon a nugget of truth in her postmortem reporting on Dumbledore's formative years and how much influence they held on who Dumbledore eventually became. He and Grindelwald held great aspirations to help bring wizards and witches out of hiding and put them at the top of the food chain, and if an unknown number of Muggles had to die in service to this dream, it was all "for the Greater Good". Dumbledore parted ways with Grindelwald and eventually had their epic showdown, but he never really left behind his "I'm-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room" attitude.
    • Dumbledore's treatment of Snape is particularly concerning to some fans, who saw him as manipulating Snape into doing his bidding by exploiting Snape's trauma at losing the only woman he ever loved. He registers Snape's desperation in saying that he would give anything to protect Lily and her family. So once Voldemort kills her and James, Dumbledore explicitly calls Snape out for hoping Voldemort would spare Lily, appears to shift responsibility to Snape for failing to protect her, and forces him to keep a close eye on Harry (who reminds Snape of not only his love but the man for whom she left him). They also argue that Snape seems to care more about Harry than Dumbledore did (despite Snape being much more of a dick to Harry than Dumbledore ever was), and point out how Snape explicitly accused Dumbledore of raising Harry "like a pig for slaughter" (referring to Dumbledore's plan to sacrifice him to defeat Voldemort), only for Dumbledore to brush him off.
    • A more minor point concerns Dumbledore's treatment of Gryffindor (at least while Harry was there) and whether it counted as favouritism. Over the years, the House Cup becomes much less important to the story, but in Philosopher's Stone, his last-minute point-spree to Gryffindor for Harry and company's actions in the climax (including a critical ten points to Neville for trying to stop them from going after the Stone because it was too dangerous, because standing up to your enemies isn't as hard as standing up to your friends) is seen as totally arbitrary and a way to screw Slytherin at the last second. Maybe he was just bored with Slytherin's winning streak.
  • Severus Snape has many such interpretations. The way he's written, this may well be intentional. He's Ambiguously Evil right up until the end of the series, even once we learn his loyalties and motivations.
    • He is seen often as a romantic Byronic Hero, who started out genuinely evil but fell in love and had a Heel–Face Turn, yet at the same time, became a bitter Jerkass out of romantic disappointment and found himself torn between jealousy and guilt before finally achieving his Redemption Quest. As the series goes on, he's shown more and more risking himself fighting for the good guys (by Deathly Hallows even risking his cover as a Mole to protect his allies). J. K. Rowling admitted that she sees Snape this way:
      [He is] a very flawed hero. An Anti-Hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity - and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and ultimately laid down his life because of it. That's pretty heroic!
    • Some fans, however, see him as a straight hero — usually leather-pantsed by fan-fic writers who claim Society Is to Blame — mostly by making him a hopeless romantic who was victimized by everyone, even Lily, but particularly James and the rest of the Marauders. Even Dumbledore is seen as having guilted Snape into being his lackey and robbing him of whatever true potential he may have had as a wizard. His treatment of Harry is seen as a tragic manifestation of what he went through, cursed to see both the woman he loved and the man she chose instead of him. His treatment of Neville is similarly justified as his angsting over the fact that had Voldemort chosen Neville instead of Harry as "his equal", Lily would have lived. These fans take Harry's "bravest man I knew" statement at face value and go as far as to insist that Snape was the true main character and most important figure in the series.
    • Others are more nuanced: They say that Snape's just after power. He was indeed mistreated by his father, by the Marauders, by Voldemort, even by Dumbledore, but this doesn't excuse him from becoming an asshole, and an asshole is what he became. He does deserve some sympathy for the bullying he went through, but he still sought power and observed that the bullies had power, and thus he became a bully himself as a means of having that power for himself. He's particularly shown to target vulnerable kids, like Harry (who's been through a lot himself), Hermione (who's more sensitive than the others), Ron (in some ways the Butt-Monkey), and Neville (in many ways the Butt-Monkey); meanwhile, he shows extraordinary favouritism to Malfoy, whose parents happen to be well-connected. His working for Dumbledore is seen as opportunistic, given that Dumbledore's patronage likely saved him from a stint in Azkaban for his actions as a Death Eater. Even his interactions with the Marauders as adults seem to follow this pattern; yes, they were cruel to him and nearly killed him with a prank, but he was willing to feed Sirius to the Dementors rather than turn him over to Dumbledore.
    • Does his Redemption Quest excuse his abusive approach to education? On the face of it, he's an asshole teacher who picks on students and would have likely been even crueler to Harry had he not been Lily's son. But some claim that he was really a Stealth Mentor who wanted to teach his students about the reality of the dangerous world they were facing (but couldn't outright because he's a Slave to PR and has to be a believable mole). For instance, in Prisoner of Azkaban his stint filling in for Lupin as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was a way to subtly warn the students that he was a werewolf, and he would likely not have bothered teaching Harry the art of Occlumency had he not believed that it could be useful to him. Others counter that Snape is still not doing a very good job of preparing students for the outside world, that he wanted to out Lupin as a werewolf because he hated him and wanted his job, and that he taught Occlumency to Harry so poorly that not only did Harry not really learn it, he was unwilling to go back to Snape for help when Voldemort started feeding him visions.
      • Alternatively, was Harry's failure to learn Occlumency Snape's fault or Harry's? Harry explicitly states that he doesn't want to learn from Snape and doesn't see any real point to it, while Snape was even more of an abusive jerk to him than usual during those lessons.
    • Was his love for Lily real, or was he just a Stalker with a Crush who was simply in love with the idea of her? It's pointed out that he never really seemed to care about her real personality and feelings. Very little of what she told him stuck with him (unless it was badmouthing James). Even after she broke their friendship off for good, rather than listen to her and give up the Dark Arts (and improve his behaviour like James apparently did), he immersed himself in the Dark Arts even further, despite knowing that it targeted people of her background and that she hated him for being into it. His pleading Voldemort to spare her has shades of Comforting the Widow, as he didn't seem to care what happened to James (or the infant Harry), and his removal of Lily from the family photo in Deathly Hallows is presented as romantic but often seen as further evidence of his inability to accept that Lily rejected him. He never even really apologized to her for calling her a "Mudblood". These fans question whether a relationship between them was at all plausible and believe that Lily would have rejected Snape even had he promised to give up the Dark Arts. Rowling had to roll back on that, saying that they really were friends at one time, and that Lily risked a lot to stick with him, so there was a shot there.
    • Did Snape even succeed in his Redemption Quest, or did he just luck out? Snape did inform Voldemort of the prophecy that convinced him he needed to kill Harry's family, but if Voldemort had chosen Neville and his family (as was possible under the prophecy), would he even have defected? Some of the people who argue that Dumbledore manipulated a vulnerable Snape into working for him was right to do so, as he called out Snape for being willing to let Harry and James die even as he pleaded for Voldemort to spare Lily, and he had the opportunity to turn a total asshole into one of the good guys. (However, these fans are likely not to accept Harry's characterization of him as "the bravest man I ever knew".)
    • How did he get in with his Death Eater friends? Did they actually like him, or were they just trying to recruit him? Did Snape actually like them, or was he just seeking power or status? They didn't defend him from the Marauders, so that complicates matters. And in adulthood, was Snape fooled into following Voldemort and treated like a pawn, or did Voldemort actually like Snape and treat him as a confidant and a near-equal? He was (kinda) willing to entertain Snape's plea not to kill Lily.
    • Do the movies change anything? In the books Snape is shown as having a lot more baggage than in the films (possibly due to space reasons). He's shown as much more insecure and angry, lashing out at Harry discovering anything embarrassing to him (see, for instance, Harry's discovery of Snape's "worst memory" or Snape's reaction to the Marauders' Map mocking him). Alan Rickman's portrayal of Snape is much cooler and self-assured; while he's still an asshole, he's much more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and his reaction to any setback seems to be whatever, I can deal with it. Complicating this reinterpretation is the idea that Rickman was informed of Snape's entire backstory as early as the first film, before any of the books describing it were even published.
  • What to think of Harry's dad James? Harry doesn't know much about him, and only later does he discover that his father wasn't everything he imagined him to be. James' friends assure Harry that he grew out of it, but some fans aren't convinced:
    • How did he end up with Lily to begin with? Did he target Snape and try to destroy their friendship so that he could have her for himself? Or, as the canon characters claim, did Lily want nothing to do with him until he shaped up? Did it matter that his friends Sirius and Lupin might still have been behaving like assholes even after James had grown out of it, or was James able to convince Lily that they were cool even if they hadn't "grown up" yet?
    • What to make of his relationships with the other Marauders? If the others were still behaving like assholes even after he had stopped (so that he could have a chance with Lily), why did he continue to hang out with them? Did his condescending Underestimating Badassery of Peter Pettigrew lead to Peter's Face–Heel Turn — and thus his own death? When he talked the others out of following through with a prank on Snape that could have gotten him killed, was he actually feeling guilty and admonishing his friends for going too far, or was he just trying to save his ass? (Interestingly, the latter question is asked in the narrative with no clear answer. Guess what Snape thinks.)
    • Harry's abrupt discovery of what James was like in school may raise more questions than it solves. When other characters talk about James before this point, one gets the impression that he was a genuinely upstanding guy all along. When Harry behaves like a good guy, everyone talks about how proud James would have been. His former professors like McGonagall, who wouldn't mince words about him having once been an asshole, speak universally positively of him. Even Voldemort treats him as a Worthy Opponent when he duels him (and does so again in Goblet of Fire when his echo appears out of the Priori Incantatem). But James acts like such an asshole when we see him in Flashback that it seems to make these earlier characterisations of him inconsistent, and it can even diminish the Emotional Torque of his character on a second reading. It just seems like there are two totally distinct versions of James, for the sake of a Shocking Swerve, and readers don't have any idea of which one is the "real" one.
  • Lily Potter is often thought of as a Canon Sue. Very few characters have anything mean to say about her, and those who do usually hold a grudge against her of some sort (like Petunia, who became The Unfavorite). Unlike James, we see little to suggest that she had any negative qualities. But her relationship with Snape complicates matters somewhat, as she did stand up for him when he was being bullied but broke off their friendship pretty abruptly (even though he did call her a "Mudblood", which given the environment was a pretty shocking thing to say to someone) and is later shown to be tight with all the Marauders. Some fans think she was Not So Above It All and secretly approved of James' treatment of Snape once she was convinced he was unrepentant of his actions. The less sane ones who glorify Snape think she overreacted to break it off with Snape to begin with (again, he used a slur against her, and this was not the only thing he did to piss her off).
  • Voldemort:
    • Is he a genuine, committed Pureblood supremacist? Or is he just an Ax-Crazy lunatic trying to Take Over the World and took advantage of the Pureblood movement to do so?
    • Is he, in spite of his debatable ways of achieving it, the only sane character in the whole series for having understood that Living Forever Is Awesome?
    • What made him turn out the way he is? Was he doomed to be evil from birth, or could he have become a better person had he believed there was someone who actually cared about him? Rowling has flipflopped on this: she has stated that he would have been better had his mother survived to raise him, but she has also said that he was born incapable of love because he was conceived under the influence of a love potion.
    • Would he have granted Snape's request that he not kill Lily? Some fans think he would have. We know that he was trying to spare her, telling Lily to get out of the way so that he could murder the baby Harry, but she refused, he said "fuck it" and killed her, and the rest is seven books of magical adventures. But these fans think that Lily's Heroic Sacrifice wasn't the only explanation for Harry's survival and believe that Voldemort's body was destroyed because he unintentionally broke a magic oath with Snape.
  • Who are even the good guys? Many Death Eaters don't exactly share in Voldemort's fervour to Take Over the World. Some of them were high-ranking figures already, which suggests that they were attracted to the movement's ideology (which happens to be to exterminate everything that's not a pure-blooded wizard). Others suggest, though, that they're Not So Different from the good guys, who themselves want to keep magic a secret from the world at large (to the point where none of them bothered to break The Masquerade during the ten months Voldemort took over their government, even though they could have saved a lot of Muggle lives by doing so), have a very harsh and sometimes disproportionate justice system, are fine with slavery, and have their own discriminatory viewpoints. For example, Dumbledore is implied to be astonishingly progressive to give Lupin and Hagrid jobs at Hogwarts, and he still has to keep Lupin's lycanthropy a secret. Furthermore, most wizards' complete ignorance of modern technology, clothing, science, and medicine due to their rejection of anything Muggle, as well as how they treat Muggles as ignorant and naive playthings is treated as comical eccentricity at it's worst. One common fan interpretation is that Wizarding Britain is incredibly backward, insular, and prejudiced compared to other magical communities.
  • Draco Malfoy's most popular interpretation named a trope for this sort of thing: Draco in Leather Pants. Although he's a constant antagonist to Harry, fandom sees him as a sad, misunderstood, Lonely Rich Kid who was thrust into a conflict he didn't fully understand. Of course, to some fans he's also a sex object; this is where the "leather pants" bit comes into play. The other end of the spectrum, though, is that he's utterly irredeemable, a Flat Character, and the only reason he doesn't become worse is that he's a Dirty Coward.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange: Is she a Psycho Supporter who truly believes in Voldemort's cause? Is she in love with Voldemort and can't see or accept that he doesn't love her back? Is she just Axe-Crazy and willing to work with anyone who won't interfere with her body count? Is it all of these?
  • Is Cornelius Fudge a Black Shirt hoping Voldemort might give him power? Is he a Horrible Judge of Character in refusing to believe Harry? Is he just a Dirty Coward politican trying to keep his job?
  • Dolores Umbridge:
    • Is she a Knight Templar who truly believes in absolute loyalty to the Ministry? Or is she a mindless sycophant who only cares about power and parrots the views of the establishment for her own gain? Imelda Staunton, who played her in the movies, subscribes to the first interpretation.
    • Did she truly support the Death Eaters when they took over, or did she just go along with them to save her own bacon? Rowling has stated that while a lot of her beliefs line up with those of the Death Eaters, she never officially became one, but this still raises some questions; did she think they went too far, or was she a sadist who didn't want to join them but saw an opportunity to torture a lot of people?
  • Was Barty Crouch Senior a well-intentioned Knight Templar fighting the Death Eaters in the way which he believed was best? Or was he just a power-hungry bureaucrat with motives no better than those of his Death Eater opponents?
  • A Fanon theory suggests that Moaning Myrtle, while she was alive, had a huge crush on Tom Riddle. Riddle used this to his advantage and got her to serve him. He probably told her lies like "I may hate other Muggle-borns, but you're different" to make her feel special (or he might have not told her about how he felt about Muggle-borns at all). This would mean that her eventual death at the hands of the Basilisk was not a random killing, but rather an act of betrayal. A further theory suggests that Olive Hornby (who found her body) was jealous of Myrtle's relationship with Riddle.
  • Is Remus Lupin a beleaguered good guy trying to make the best of his life despite the hand he's been dealt? Or is he a Dirty Coward who lets good opportunities pass him by because he's too mired in his self-pity to make more of himself? This is a question that arose from Deathly Hallows, when he tries to run away from Tonks and their unborn child, which causes a reassessment of his character in light of the issues we know about him. It even forces Harry into asking this question (and, interestingly, he's inclined to believe the Dirty Coward theory and calls him out on it). Not that it helps, because he and Tonks are both killed by the end.
  • How are the Hogwarts houses really?
    • Gryffindor is the house Harry belongs to, so naturally we see the most of it and it's painted in the best light. It's nominally the house of courage and chivalry, but some fans see it more as a house full of Jerk Jocks, Glory Hounds, and the Popular Is Dumb crowd.
    • Ravenclaw is the house for smart people, but how smart are Ravenclaws really? Some paint them as rather boring, academic, and exclusionary. But when Order of the Phoenix introduced Luna Lovegood, now they also became associated with eccentrics, mystics, and creative types.
    • Is Slytherin a house of Always Chaotic Evil Pureblood fanatics? Word of God says no, they're much more nuanced. We don't see much evidence of this in the books, but Harry is a Gryffindor, has a real rivalry with Slytherin, and might just not want to see any redeeming qualities. The most positively portrayed Slytherin, Horace Slughorn, is an Anti-Hero who still has subtle traces of Pureblood supremacist thinking. Officially, they're the house of ambition, but Ambition Is Evil in the story. Fan writers like to suggest that they're Not Evil, Just Misunderstood - a house that likes being edgy, sticking up for each other, and finding hidden potential. Pureblood fanaticism on that large a scale seems kind of impractical, anyway.
      • Its founder, Salazar Slytherin, is not painted well in the books - he was known to have built the Chamber of Secrets, which housed the Muggle-killing Basilisk, and he did have a falling out with the other founders over whether or not to accept Muggle-born students. This suggests that he really was a Pureblood supremacist, but one interpretation suggests that since the Burn the Witch! trope was alive and well at the timenote , he didn't have anything against Muggles per se, but was a pragmatist who didn't want to open the school up to attack by Muggles. Under this interpretation, the Chamber of Secrets was a defense against a possible attack. Others suggest that the Basilisk wasn't intended to kill people, but Tom Riddle found a way to change that.
      • Another fact about Slytherin that paints them in a different light, is one of it's alumni, Wizard of Arthurian Legend, Merlin, if legend in the Wizarding World is truth, Merlin was a definitive Big Good, and willing served under a muggle king, and tried to do the best to make the world a peaceful place.
    • Hufflepuff is so often portrayed as "the House of All the Rest" that it named a trope. Fans naturally wanted to explore their positive traits, but they differ on what those are. Some suggest it's the House of goal-oriented hard workers, so much so that they'll eschew glory just to get stuff done. Others suggest it's the House of love, friendship, and community. Still others suggest they're just Lawful Stupid. And some suggest it's designed to be "the House of All the Rest", painting its founder Helga Hufflepuff as the Only Sane Man who valued community and didn't like the idea of dividing 11-year-old students up by personality (when kids that age probably don't have a firm grasp of their identity anyway). The Sorting Hat itself seems to characterise Hufflepuff this way at one point, almost as if to discourage anyone from wanting to be sorted there; maybe they just don't want kids who feel a strong need to "fit in" with any given group.
  • Knockturn Alley: Wretched Hive filled with the worst Wizarding Britain has to offer with highly illegal goods openly displayed? Or a ghetto filled with those too poor to live in Diagon Alley, containing both legitimate and illegitimate businesses?
  • What to make of Pius Thicknesse, Voldemort's puppet Minister of Magic? Officially, he was under the Imperius Curse, but he seemed a little more... animated than most people under Imperius, and nobody else ever seemed to mention that his behaviour was pretty odd, so maybe he was in control — and had defected to the Death Eaters. It could be a matter of some Imperius practitioners being more adept than others; the Order previously mentions a rumour that Cornelius Fudge was under Imperius and seemed not to think it unusual that his co-workers wouldn't notice. In the films, it's even more confusing, as he looks vague and disoriented as one might expect under Imperius, but in this case he is a full-blown Death Eater and even took part in the final battle on the wrong side.
  • Professor Trelawney is, in the books themselves and by other characters, generally regarded as a fraud who's only ever made two real prophecies in her life. However, it has been argued by fans that many of her predictions are at least Metaphorically True, creating the interpretation that she does genuinely have the sight but is simply bad at interpreting what she sees. Others see her as a charlatan who makes vague and broad predictions that are likely to be true without any actual knowledge of the future. Divination is not very well explained in the series, and it's left ambiguous whether the practice has any value at all. Another question is why Dumbledore hired her, as he wasn't going to until she launched into one of the two real prophecies; was he genuinely impressed and thought she could teach, or did he just want her nearby so that he could listen in case she did it again (and prevent her from falling into Voldemort's hands)?
  • The house-elves epitomize the Slave Race, which raises a lot of questions:
    • With a few exceptions, such as Dobby, they find the prospect of not serving human wizards abhorrent. However, is this Happiness in Slavery attitude actually genuine? Are the house-elves just saying they're fine with being enslaved because they feel as if they can't fight the Fantastic Caste System the Wizarding World has enforced on them? Or have they been enslaved by wizards for so long that they wouldn't know what they would do if they were freed? Or are they even possibly under a magical compulsion? Even Dobby's idea of freedom isn't "not working", but "not working for the Malfoys", as he happily works for Dumbledore while insisting on being paid less than he was offered. However, this raises its own questions — is he genuinely conditioned not to want too much money, or does he just not want the other house-elves to turn on him since they already consider him a weirdo for being happy as a free house-elf? Hermione's own theory is that they're psychologically conditioned to like being enslaved, which is something that can happen to slaves in real life, and there are a lot of hints that makes one wonder if it's true — including the house-elves' habit of physically punishing themselves for failing their masters.
    • The other question is what to make of wizards who seem okay with this sort of thing. Hermione seems to be the only one who's utterly horrified at House Elves being used as slave labor. Is there something that she's missing, or is the Wizarding World — which has never had a reputation for open-mindedness — just not thinking about it too hard and accepting the house-elves' claims at face value? Furthermore, even if Hermione is right, is her methodology appropriate? Consider how offended the Hogwarts house-elves are when she starts leaving hats and socks for them to find as a means of tricking them into freedom — if it works, they are released from Dumbledore's employment, and then they may just wander off to work for someone else, who's very likely not to be as kind to them as Dumbledore is. This means that Hermione would have done much more harm than good if this plan had succeeded. It is a recurring theme among house-elves (as seen with Kreacher's treatment of the heroes) that they're much more likely not to betray you the better you treat them.
  • Why did Petunia and Vernon Dursley even take Harry in if they hated him, and by extension, wizards and magic in general, so much? Was it because deep down, Petunia really did care about her sister Lily and wish to protect her son? Or did Dumbledore badger them into doing it and left them with no choice but to agree to take in Harry? Harry was a literal Doorstop Baby, and the only explanation as to why he was there was a letter Dumbledore left explaining what had happened to Harry's parents — a letter which described them as having been killed by an evil wizard who will kill them too unless they invoke the magical protections from the evil wizard in question by taking in the kid. How is a Muggle family going to react to that? Why would they believe that? More importantly, why would the old reactionary Vernon believe that? Why wouldn't they go to the Muggle police (since if you find an abandoned child, especially a baby, you’re supposed to report them to the authorities even if it's claimed that the baby in question is related to you), or at the very least ask Dumbledore for some clarification? Did Dumbledore even leave them any way to contact him so they could actually talk to him about this arrangement? Petunia does prevent Vernon from actually kicking Harry out, but that could be for either one of the above reasons.
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